The 3 O’s of eye care: Optometrists, Opticians and Ophthalmologists​

Choosing the right eye care professional for your particular situation doesn’t have to be complicated. If you don’t know the difference between optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists, don’t worry, we are here to help!

Let us explain the difference between these eye health professionals, their roles, medical scope, education requirements, and more, to help you make an informed decision. Maybe someday you, a friend, family or someone you know will also be interested in joining the amazing world of eye care. We always welcome new people!

What is an Optometrist?


Optometrists are eye care professionals who offer primary eye care services. They are licensed to do comprehensive eye exams, offer glasses and contact lens prescriptions, treat common eye conditions, find abnormalities affecting vision, refer patients, and more¹

What Does It Take to Be an Optometrist?

As per the Canadian Association of Optometrists, a person must acquire 7-8 years of post-secondary education to be a Doctor of Optometry (OD) – the professional designation for optometrists in Canada. Here’s more on the educational requirements²

Educational Requirements

  • Begin with 3 or more years of an undergraduate program (preferably in sciences). Some provinces (i.e. Quebec) allow 2 years of CEGEP (College of General and Professional Teaching).
  • Proceed with 4-5 years of an accredited university program in optometry (advanced education).
  • On completion of the accredited university program, one must meet the provincial board requirements of the province/territory they wish to practice in. This includes sitting for an exam administered by the governing optometry body (Optometry Exam Board of Canada).
  • On successful completion, a license is issued by the provincial/territorial governing body.

There are also some additional training requirements (optional)

  • Optometrists who wish for an edge take additional residency training after completing their university program.

What Does an Optometrist Do?

Optometrists can do eye exams, diagnose and treat common vision conditions, prescribe contact lenses and glasses prescriptions, fit contact lenses, find abnormalities in a patient’s vision, and refer patients who need specialized treatment.

In a nutshell, optometrists can diagnose/treat a number of vision conditions that include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Myopia or near-sightedness
  • Hyperopia or farsightedness
  • Presbyopia or age-related farsightedness
  • Diplopia or double vision
  • Colour blindness
  • Astigmatism
  • Eye inflammation
  • Eye infections

Did you know?

For services covered under our Ontario health system, OHIP, referrals take time to process by the ophthalmology clinic we are referring to. Each referral is personalized based on the needs of the patient. Depending on how busy the ophthalmology clinic is, it can take between 1 to 6 months to set up an appointment based on the urgency of each referral. 

Our team of optometric assistants and optometrists at Kodak Lens Vision Centres will closely monitor each referral to best manage the patient’s expectations and needs with the ophthalmology clinic that will serve them best. Patients can choose to wait and be covered under OHIP or private ophthalmology care for specific services and treatments. 

Is An Optometrist A Doctor?

Yes! An optometrist (Doctor of Optometry or OD) is duly licensed by a governing body (College of Optometrists) in the province or territory one wishes to practice in.

What is an Optician?


Opticians are licensed eye care professionals who dispense the optimal eyeglasses and contact lenses for each individual. They’re also able to help dispense other vision correction products such as low vision aids/devices. Opticians generally are front line to each individual’s visual needs or can step in after patients see an optometrist that has been diagnosed with an eye condition and issued prescriptions for eyeglasses or contacts³

What Does It Take to Be an Optician?

As per the Opticians Association of Canada, opticians must have specific educational and certification requirements to operate as professionals. 

Educational Requirements

  • Finish an opticianry program at an accredited institution. Typical programs take 1-3 years, depending on how they are offered (part-time, full-time, online, etc.).
  • Do the NACOR exam to get the license in 9 provinces in Canada.
  • On passing the exam, one can apply for registration in their respective governing body (College of Opticians).

Additional Requirements

  • Individuals wishing to become licensed contact lens fitters may be required to take a Contact Lens Program and do a specialized training exam (NACOR exam for contact lenses). This depends on the province one resides in.
  • Opticians can also specialize in refraction and must also pass a NACOR exam

What Does an Optician Do?

Opticians will assist you in getting the right pair of prescription glasses, contact lenses, and/or other visual correction devices. They can mainly work independently or alongside optometrists and ophthalmologists. 

  • Based on your prescription and visual needs, opticians take the time to explain which ophthalmic lenses, eyewear frames, and/or contact lenses are best for you.
  • Opticians help adjust and fit eyeglass frames, edge and mount ophthalmic lenses, fit contact lenses and provide education on how to choose and care for your eyewear or contact lenses 
  • Opticians are frontline professionals with eye care knowledge and optical skills to provide you with direction for your eye care and visual needs. 

Is An Optician A Doctor?

A registered Optician (RO) isn’t a doctor of optometry (OD) or medical doctor (MD). However, they are licensed eye care professionals by their respective governing body (College of Opticians) to have a specific scope of practice.

What is an Ophthalmologist?


Ophthalmologists are doctors of medicine (MD) with specific training and experience in diagnosing and treating eye diseases. They are capable of offering advanced eye care services for critical eye conditions.

Ophthalmologists have the expertise to offer comprehensive eye care services such as surgical procedures and medical eye care⁴. They deal with a wide range of eye conditions i.e., the anatomy, physiology, and conditions of the eyes.

What Does It Take to Be an Ophthalmologist?

As per the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, individuals wishing to be ophthalmologists must meet the following requirements⁵:

Educational Requirements to be an Ophthalmologist in Canada

  • Graduate from medical school and complete ophthalmology residency (lasting at least 5 years) after getting a medical degree.
  • Have extensive surgical experience (acquired in the last 2-years of training to be an ophthalmologist).
  • Join the respective provincial licensing organization i.e. Eye Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario.

Additional Requirements (optional)

  • Many ophthalmologists receive further medical training 1-2 years in various subspecialties.

What Do Ophthalmologists Do?

Ophthalmologists are qualified to offer complete eye care, from specialty eye exams and diagnosis to medical eye care and surgical care services. This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Diagnosing vision conditions
  • Performing medical eye exams and related eye care tests
  • Prescribing corrective ophthalmic lenses, specialty contact lenses, and medication for treating/managing eye issues
  • Performing eye surgery and related procedures to treat eye conditions
  • Referring patients to other medical professionals if there are underlying overlapping medical conditions.

Is An Ophthalmologist A Doctor?

Yes. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specialized in ophthalmology and licensed by the respective governing body (College of Physicians) in the province where the eye care professional resides.

Here’s a summary table with all the information you should know:

Role Optician (RO) Optometrist (OD) Ophthalmologist (OMD)
Dispense eyeglasses by providing personalized eye care measurements, fitting and adjustments YES YES, often in collaboration with Opticians YES, often in collaboration with Opticians
Dispense soft, hard & specialty contact lenses YES YES YES, often in collaboration with Optometrists or Opticians
Conduct vision assessment to determine your prescription for glasses NO, but can refer to Optometry YES YES, often in collaboration with Optometrists
Conduct comprehensive eye health exams for the assessment, treatment and diagnosis of eye conditions and diseases NO, but can refer to Optometry YES YES, often in collaboration with Optometrists
Conduct eye surgery and medical procedures within the practice scope of a medical physician NO NO, but can refer to Ophthalmology YES


How To Choose the Right Professional for You?

When To See an Optometrist: 

If you suspect you have any vision issues such as blurry vision, eye problems, infection, eye pain, or double vision, an optometrist should be the first vision professional to visit as they specialize in conducting comprehensive eye health exams to diagnose and treat common eye and visual conditions. Optometrists can prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses or pharmaceuticals to address your concerns. If further testing or treatment is required, an Optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist who specializes in treating your specific condition. 

When to See an Ophthalmologist:

If you see an optometrist and they discover you need specialized eye-related medical or surgical treatment services, they’ll usually refer you to an ophthalmologist. If you do have an eye emergency, an ophthalmologist can be seen at the hospital. Private ophthalmology clinics are available, but may require a referral from an optometrist.

When to See an Optician: 

When you need help with prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses! Opticians can help select and produce eyeglasses and contact lenses based on your prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Opticians can also help with eyewear adjustments, repairs, eye care questions, optical measurements, lens ordering and optical education.

In a nutshell, optometrists should be the first initial visit because they can do vision tests, diagnose common conditions, provide treatment plans or refer you to an ophthalmologist for further care. They can also transition to an optician for any vision corrective needs such as eyeglasses.

If you reside in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area, you can book a consultation or schedule an eye exam with experienced optometrists and opticians at Kodak Lens Vision Centre with seven locations: Toronto, Ajax, Scarborough, Riverdale, Etobicoke, North York, and Rexdale. Explore our eyeglass brands and contact lenses (including specialty contact lenses), while at it.

Experience our optometry and optical services at a Kodak Lens Vision Centre where you can get personalized eye care and ensure all your eye health needs are met. Our experienced team of Optometrists and Opticians will best assist you by providing eye care support that you can trust and feel satisfied with. Ask us to learn more.